I Gave the ACLU $50,000 and They Gave Me These Awesome Cupcakes

ACLU cupcakes with "Travel as a Political Act" book

On Tuesday, I shared my support of the ACLU on Facebook. My post went viral, with over 2.5 million views, 9,000 shares, and 2,700 comments. I read hundreds of your thoughtful responses and enjoyed replying. Thanks for the insightful back-and-forth on these timely issues. After hearing the news of our $50,000 donation, the ACLU brought my office delicious and patriotic “fired up for freedom” cupcakes. I’d love to share them — but they cost me a lot of money. Instead, here are a few of my favorite comments, with my replies. Thanks again for your support of civil liberties…and your comments.


Beth Magnon: I am trying to do my part. I wrote 15 letters to my congress men and women this week. I have promised myself to send at least 3 letters a week for as long as our country is in this position!

Rick Steves: Yes, a thoughtful letter (especially one that’s not part of an organized campaign) really can have a huge and surprising impact. Bread for the World is a great example of an advocacy group that empowers caring citizens.


Reta Bray: Yes, it’s very important to support the ACLU. I did my small part, and am glad to see you were able to make a substantial donation!

Rick Steves: Donations, like civil liberties themselves, are all important — both big and small.


Jessica Medina: I was nervous that my purchase wouldn’t count towards this donation, since I didn’t see any sign or promo code for it. Then I wondered, how many Trump supporters are shopping on this site right now not knowing about the match? Bwahahahaaa! Thanks Rick Steves!

Rick Steves: That’s a funny thought. I almost had a little pop-up warning put on our site that day.


Genny Sheehan-Short: Rick Steves, I’m from Indianapolis. We have a small business store, Silver In The City, who donated 100% of their sales from their stores and online last Friday to Planned Parenthood Indiana and Kentucky. It’s wonderful to hear of your generosity as well. Thank you!

Rick Steves: I nearly included Planned Parenthood in my ACLU initiative, but decided to keep it simple and more focused. Thanks for supporting Planned Parenthood. Regardless of the morality of abortions, there is a class reality when it comes to a woman’s choice. Even in places where abortions are illegal, those with money and a plane ticket have that option. It is poor women who have no choice and whose lives can be devastated.


Jennifer Lynch Elliott: I love you, Rick Steves! The fact that you make your voice heard without fear of reprisal on your business is inspiring. I love showing your videos to my French and Spanish classes! I’ve always respected you for your awesome work but now I hold you in even higher esteem. Thank you for speaking out!

Rick Steves: Thanks for using my videos in your teaching. I’m hoping to break up my 100 episodes into small teachable nuggets and make these available to teachers for free in a nicely designed and searchable list of streamable video clips. Stay tuned!


Tessa Daniel: Your entire paragraph about white male privilege literally had me yelling “YES!” emphatically in my classroom today. Thank you, thank you, thank you for realizing that it exists, that there are others whose lives are being impacted even more with this presidency, and for doing something about it.

Rick Steves: To all teachers: Thank you for your service. If I were an airline, I’d let you board the plane first.


Maryellen Wilson Sullivan: Traveling on our four (so far) Rick Steves tours has opened our minds and hearts to the way non-Americans live and feel. The “American way” is not the ONLY way. Thanks Rick!

Rick Steves: Maryellen, thanks for the comment. I think the most “profitable” thing we do as a travel company is to give our travelers the transformative experience you just described. Reading about how you brought home that most beautiful souvenir — a broader perspective — made my heart do a happy little flip-flop.


Mike Wolfender: While I seldom find the efforts of the ACLU inspiring, I heartily applaud Rick Steves. He has done something positive to advance what he values without disparaging the process that produced all the freedoms and opportunities the US offers each of us. Ironically, this from a guy who makes his living by leaving the Country.

Rick Steves: It often occurs to me that the second happiest day of my year is the day I leave for Europe…and the happiest is the day I return home.


Diana Baelly: You’ve done your part to make this a more global community in an unfortunate time of xenophobia, extreme nationalism and isolationism. Thank you for your efforts!

Rick Steves: To me, ethnocentricity is a negative trait. I had never considered until this last election that many people actually aspire to be ethnocentric.


Mollie M: Thanks Rick Steves! 50k is a huge donation. You might consider switching your banking to a credit union, a more equitable banking system that serves its members, instead of stockholders. Just a suggestion. Thanks for all of your level headed commentary. Safe Journeys fellow travelers, these are scary times for US citizens, and our friends around the world.

Rick Steves: Thanks for the nudge about my choice of banks. I’ll give that some consideration. By the way, when people tell me “have a safe trip,” I tell them to have a safe stay at home. That’s because where I’m going is safer than where they are staying. Statistically, European travel has never been more safe. I know statistics are optional these days, but there is no question that more people were being killed by terrorists in the 1980s and 1990s than in this decade. We just had quality news rather than entertainment masquerading as news back then — and people were less likely to confuse risk and fear. So, rather than “safe travels,” let’s go back to saying “bon voyage.” Life is good. The world is a beautiful place. And happy travels!


Elizabeth Fourakres Hollingsworth: All Trump meant is that he’s going to be looking out for america’s interests. where is the wrong in that????? my heavens, NO ONE has been looking out for america’s interests in YEARS and YEARS!! all the politicians have been looking out for their own pockets. it’s about TIME somebody is going to look out for our nation’s interests!!!

Rick Steves: Half of humanity is trying to live on $2 a day. As a nation, we are very wealthy. Perhaps the problem lies in distribution of wealth within our already very rich and powerful country.


Lisa Berrios: Thank you, Mr. Steves for recognizing that because something is not a problem for you or others like you, it does not mean the problem does not exist. Your compassion and generosity are inspiring.

Rick Steves: To me, an enlightened citizen steps into the privacy of the voting booth and votes not for his or her self-interest but for the greater good. Simple as that sounds, I think that is beyond the grasp of many in our electorate. It’s important to remember that who wins or loses an election impacts struggling people (both at home and abroad) far more than the well-off.


Amy Tambone: Don’t forget to support your local PBS station. I signed up for the $5/month sustaining membership and will be getting Rick’s book Europe through the Back Door 2017 as well as access to the PBS programs on my iPad.

Rick Steves: Thank you, Amy, for recognizing the value of public broadcasting. Media shapes the minds of our citizenry more than ever. We need that one non-corporate oasis on the dial that assumes an attention span, respects our intelligence, and thinks of us as fellow citizens rather than shoppers (or just more eyeballs on an ad agency’s ratings chart). Powerful forces would prefer a dumbed-down electorate. That’s why I believe those same powerful forces are threatened by — and will try to defund — PBS.


Michele Van Sise: Thank you Rick for supporting the ACLU! I’m at the moment traveling this beautiful country for a full year. Scared for my LGBTQ, black, Muslim, native and Mexican friends. I’m scared for my national parks and forests.

Rick Steves: I’m scared for all things public. Just like the markets and resources of other nations must be in play, anything owned by the public in our country seems like a lost opportunity for the forces of greed — suddenly so powerful in our democracy — whose appetites are, by definition, insatiable.


Tanya Gripton Walker: You’ve been my favorite travel guide source for many years. As a small business owner, I love and respect that you’re willing to take a public stand for what you believe in, even if it might alienate some people. We live in scary times. Keep up the great work!

Rick Steves: To not take a stand in these times, for fear of alienating some people, would be wrong. As history teaches, being fragmented and without solidarity enables evil to rise even in a nation where it has no business thriving.


Anand Saha Priya: “The most dangerous world view is the view of the person who has not seen the world.” Rick Steves has surely seen the world!

Rick Steves: That’s the best travel quote I’ve seen in ages. Thanks!


15 Replies to “I Gave the ACLU $50,000 and They Gave Me These Awesome Cupcakes”

  1. Our American Civil Liberties go beyond the border of politics parties because we all benefit from the safeguarding of our civlil liberties.
    I love that you were given cupcakes. A sweet reminder of the freedom we cherish

  2. Thank you for sharing these comments and responses. And a GIANT THANK YOU for your wonderful support to the ACLU and for motivating others :-)

  3. My husband and I have traveled for years using your guidebooks, with their insight and super helpful tips, to gain the most from our experiences abroad. You are a statesman in your own right and your donation to the ACLU is a wonderful example of your commitment to humanity. Congratulations on another job well done!

  4. Love your show and the Christmas show I really enjoy.. Hope your on and still teaching us about the different countries foe many years to come. God Bless you. Will

  5. An especially hearty ‘amen!’ to your comments about PBS! My granny and I have bonded over watching travel shows, especially yours. She watches the NewsHour and some Independent Lens, which have opened her eyes to her own prejudices. PBS’s commitment to high-quality entertainment and informative programming is more important than ever.

  6. I left a comment on my Fb (Kukana Kennedy) and shared your post. I wrote that I used to buy your books second hand and watch you on YouTube. But no longer,since you made that donations. As a military family in Italy money is tight but I will be making the sacrifice to buy directly from you as you made a sacrifice I would have loved to. Keep up the good work and it’s my dream to meet you along the road somewhere in Europe! We never want to go home and it’s ashamed since we have sacrificed so many years away from family to serve this country. Keep up the good work!

  7. One more to add to the hundreds already. We live in Grays Harbor, WA. Once a month, we have ACLU potluck/meetings. These people are great, very involved, intelligent people. They helped stop the oil trains from coming to Aberdeen, Hoquiam. P.S. At our weekly Rainy Day Read at the Timberland library: you were mentioned by a couple that was on the Best of Europe Tour that you led. We have only been on 6 tours. My husband did a review of your books a few years ago. A big hit. Jana

  8. My husband and I love your programs. We travel every year to Europe and use your information to help guide us. Like you, we embrace spending time with local citizens wherever we are and learning more about their lives. As an anthropologist, I have spent my entire professional life teaching that there is no better or worse, only different. And when we learn about the difference we also learn to respect it. I forgot to go to your website to purchase anything on Friday, but I do make a monthly donation to the ACLU. Thank you so much for introducing Americans to the joy of Europe and for being a staunch defender of cultural diversity.

  9. Thank you Rick! You continue to make a positive difference in the lives of many. Peace in traveling. 1/26/17

  10. Thanks Rick for highlighting the ACLU. We actually started our contributions last year during the campaign along with the So Poverty Law Center. Critical now!

  11. Dear Rick Steves – you don’t know how grateful I am for your voice right now with moral clarity at a time when few pastors I know do. Thank you for being a beacon of light and righteousness. And for just getting it.

  12. Thank you Rick for keeping it so positive despite the on slot of media making American’s think there live are terrible. I have been coming back to you since 911 to keep traveling and have a positive attitude. We have been all over the world at least 12 times and here we are safe and have wonderful memories!

  13. The ACLU is putting the contribution to good use, This Saturday it was in federal court against Donald Trumpery’s executive order against refugees and against immigrants from 7 Muslim-majority countries (none of which he has major investments in), not including Saudi Arabia – where Bin Laden and the majority of the 9/11 terrorists came from.

  14. Thanks for standing up for American values, Rick! Generosity, strength, democracy.

    You are a true gent and a kind heart… What the world needs a heck of a lot more of right now.

Comments are closed.